On the Surface – Buying

Last weekend I picked up a Surface Pro 64GB from the Microsoft Store in Seattle.  I was on my way to the MVP Summit 2013 and thought I should go prepared.  This series of blog posts will describe my experiences with the Surface Pro.

The Store

The Microsoft Store is actually a very pleasant experience.  My companion that day remarked how similar it is to an Apple Store and to some extent I’d agree with her.  It is large and open with a sort of minimalist design.  There was a lot more color (even in the devices like Surface) and also a lot more variety.  The Microsoft Store may have borrowed some of Apples design aesthetic for the store (This particular store was directly across the parking lot from an Apple Store, which made it even more entertaining to compare), but the Microsoft Store sells more than just their own hardware.  I noticed many form factors of computers from a variety of manufacturers.  All were of high quality so they must use some sort of filtering process in selecting them.

The experience was similar to what I’ve seen in the few times I’ve been in an Apple store.  Sales representatives were abundant and knowledgeable and plenty of devices of all types where available for usage / test driving.  At one point as my companion played with a Surface RT with a Touch keyboard (which she liked) she complained that the keyboard was off and typing the wrong keys.  The nearest sales rep heard, walked over, and suggested that someone may have changed the keyboard mapping.  With about two gestures he had the keyboard menu up and sure enough it was set to a different keyboard mapping.  This demonstrated two things to me: one this representative knew his wares well, particularly the surface and two there are some real jerks out there who will change a keyboard mapping on a public device and not change it back.

I will admit that I initially wanted the 128GB model and the representative did say that I could order it, but I wanted instant gratification.  He then mentioned that they had a special on 64GB MicroSD cards that work with the Surface.  This would provide the same total storage as the 128 and cost a little bit less.  He also mentioned the extra 3GB of Sky Drive that come with a Surface and then we discussed how in the future all (or most) storage will be in the cloud anyway.  End result is I bought the 64GB Surface (though I would not say this was a hard sell on the representative’s part).  I also bought the Type keyboard and the Surface Edition Wedge Mouse (and the 64GB MicroSD card).  I did have to wait about four or five minutes for the representative to return with my bag of goodies (in which time another representative checked in with me to make sure I was being helped).  The only drawback of the entire experience was the gigantic bag my rather small purchase was delivered in.  I guess they don’t have a lot of bag options, but it was a nice and eco-friendly bag.

The Packaging

Once getting the device back to the hotel I took some time to inspect the packaging at length.  Clearly a lot of thought went into the design and creation of the packaging that the surface and its accessories come in.  This may sound like a subtle point to make, but I think it’s really quite significant.  I’ve purchased dozens of computers in my life and this is the first one that came in a really beautiful package.  Phones have been delivered this way for a long time (before Apple started doing it even) so I was quite impressed that Microsoft dedicated the time and resources necessary to create an aesthetically pleasing consumer focused experiences.  Despite the “Pro” in the name, this is a consumer device.  It may be business class, but its consumer quality; which now seems to mean higher quality than business.

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The packaging was sturdy and robust and used common themes throughout.  One that stood out immediately was the use of clearly marked pull tabs consistently throughout the packaging for the Surface itself and the Touch keyboard.  These tabs gave clear visual cues about where to look to remove packaging elements.

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Even the Surface edition wedge mouse was in on the act.  The background doesn’t give scope to how small this mouse really is.

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All in all I would say this was a high quality consumer experience and a purchase that I was not let down by at least in the early consumer focused phases.  I will blog more about my experiences with the surface shortly.

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MVP Summit next week

Next week is the MVP Summit at Microsoft and I’m looking forward to a lot of learning and catching up with other experts in Microsoft technologies.  The four days of the Summit are completely under NDA and the access Microsoft offers to these insiders is astounding.  The Summit is my favorite part of being an MVP (although the MSDN subscription isn’t bad either).  Amazingly the Summit itself is free of charge.  I will be at the Summit again this year for a third time (I missed the one in 2011 due to travel).  All the BizTalk, Connected Systems, (sorry we’re both now Integration) and Azure MVPs I know are looking forward to reconnecting and sharing our experiences.  Be sure to look out for photos and good blog posts that still respect the NDA during and after the Summit.